Reservist convicted of murder may get new sentence
El Paso Times
A new punishment trial for a former Army reservist convicted in 2007 of shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend will begin Monday with jury selection.
Quinn Cruz Jr., 37, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in the death of Tonya Marie West, 25, on Nov. 18, 2005, outside of the Crest Apartments in West El Paso. She was about three weeks pregnant at the time, and the embryo also died.
In 2010, the state's Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled that Cruz deserved a new punishment trial based on evidence he didn't know West was pregnant at the time, and therefore couldn't have intended to kill the embryo.
The appellate court lowered Cruz's conviction to murder, and said a new jury should determine his sentence.
At the time of West's death, Cruz was 29 years old and had been medically discharged from an Army Reserve unit based in Colorado.
West was married and had a young daughter, but according to the appellate court's ruling, West and Cruz were dating and had moved into the Crest Apartments on Oct. 18, 2005. About a week later, West moved out of the apartment and moved into another apartment in the complex.
On the morning of Nov. 18, 2005, Cruz and West were apparently discussing their breakup when several residents heard a gunshot and a woman scream. They also reported seeing West trying to flee the scene.
One resident who rushed to help West told police West was asked if she knew who shot her, and West responded, "Quinn Cru--." West later died at Thomason Hospital, now the University Medical Center of El Paso. According to her autopsy report, she had been shot four times at close range.
Several hours later, Cruz called police, saying he "had done something horrible" and wanted to turn himself in. Police arrested him at a carwash near the apartment complex, and he led police to a drainage pipe where he had hidden the gun.
State prosecutors sought the capital murder charge based on West's pregnancy and argued Cruz had killed two people. During Cruz's original trial, El Paso County medical examiner Dr. Juan Contín testified West would not have had any visible signs of pregnancy, and that she probably hadn't experienced morning sickness yet.
"The State concedes that the evidence is legally insufficient to prove that (Cruz) intended to kill the unborn child as there is no evidence he knew West was pregnant, but it argues that the judgment should be reformed to reflect a conviction for the murder of West and the cause should be remanded for a new punishment hearing. We agree," the appellate court wrote in its opinion.
Cruz now faces five to 99 years in prison. He also has a pending charge of aggravated assault on a public servant -- allegedly threatening an El Paso County detention officer with a shank on May 2.
Cruz's punishment trial will take place in the 205th District Court before Judge Kathleen Olivares.